“As always, Policarpo Quaresma, more commonly known as Major Quaresma, arrived home at a quarter past four in the afternoon. He had done so for more than twenty years. Leaving the Ministry of War, where he was undersecretary, he would pick out some fruit at the shops, buy a cheese occasionally and always the bread from the French bakery.”

One of Lima Barreto’s masterpieces, "Triste fim de Policarpo Quaresma" ("The Sad End of Policarpo Quaresma") tells the story of an extreme nationalist whose sublime vision of Brazil serves as a source of disdain and irony. Originally published in serial format in Rio de Janeiro’s Jornal do Commercio, between August 11 and October 19, 1911, the novel brings into view issues such as patriotism, madness, violence, the republic, and the fragile citizenship experienced in Brazil at the beginning of the 20th century. Paid for by the writer himself, the first book edition would not be printed until 1915.

“This time however, contrary to the norm, Saint Peter, before leaving, took a preemptive look at the list; and this action was useful, because if he hadn’t, perhaps, from that time on, for the rest of time – who knows? – Heaven might have been totally ruined. Saint Peter read the report: there were a lot of souls, many indeed, but out of all them and the attached explanations, one of them stood out and looked particularly odd.”

Written in 1904, but published only twenty years later, "O Pecado"(“The Sin”) delivers one of Lima Barreto’s most scathing critiques of the Catholic Church and its position regarding black slavery in Brazil. The short story also compels readers to reflect on the non-inclusion of the ex-enslaved in post-abolition Brazilian society. Although two prior versions can be found in the Manuscript Division of the National Library in Rio de Janeiro, the first publication would appear only posthumously, in the magazine Souza Cruz (VIII, n. 92, August 1924).

“- So I need three highly-rated individuals who could witness an experiment and can give me a statement to that effect, in order to protect the copyright of my invention…As you know: there are unforeseen events which…
– Certainly! No doubt!
– Imagine if this was about making gold…
– How? What? Asked Bastos, his eyes widening.
– Yes! Gold! Said Flamel, with great conviction.”

One of Lima Barreto’s best known short stories, "A Nova Califórnia" (“The New California”) narrates the turmoil of a small town after the arrival of an outsider who claims it is possible to turn human bones into gold. Just as in “The Man Who Knew Javanese,” Lima Barreto critiques the allure of what comes from abroad and the fascination with supposedly scientific ideas. One of the author’s favorite texts, “The New California” was written in 1910 and published in the first edition of Triste Fim de Policarpo Quaresma (Rio de Janeiro: Typ. Revista dos Tribunais, 1915, pp. 273-284).

“Simões was the descendant of a well-known family from Rio de Janeiro, the Feitais, from whom the 13 th of May snatched over a thousand slaves. A real fortune, because slaves, in those days, despite abolitionist agitation, were a prized commodity.”

The short story "O Caçador Doméstico" (“The Domestic Hunter”) — read here by Jeferson Tenório — narrates the decadence of a slaveowner whose family was “horrified of manumission.” Standing out among Lima Barreto’s final works, it was first published in the magazine Careta on April 23, 1921 and republished in Histórias e sonhos: Contos (Rio de Janeiro: Gráfica Editora Brasileira, 1951) and Contos completos de Lima Barreto (São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 2010).

“No one wants to argue; no one wants to shake things up; no one wants to add excitement. Everyone wants to ‘eat.’ Jurists ‘eat,’ philosophers ‘eat,’ doctors ‘eat,’ lawyers ‘eat,’ poets ‘eat,’ novelists ‘eat,’ engineers ‘eat,’ journalists ‘eat’: Brazil is a vast ‘pig out’.”

"A Política Republicana" (“Republican Politics”) is an indispensable reference for those interested in Lima Barreto’s shrewd critique of the promises of the Republic. Read here by Preto Zezé, the chronicle locates in the change of political regime one of the sources of national decline at the dawn of the 20th century. Lack of moral elevation, lack of intellectual originality and excess gluttony (“pigging out”) are a few of the defamations reiterated by the writer to disqualify what he called “the regime of corruption.” Initially printed in the A.B.C. (October 19, 1918), the piece was republished in the collection Lima Barreto: Toda crônica – Volume 1, 1890-1919 (2004, pp. 392-393).

“I received letters from intellectuals in the interior, newspapers cited me and I had to refuse to accept a class of students thirsting to learn Javanese.”

"O Homem que Sabia Javanês"(“The Man Who Knew Javanese”), by Lima Barreto, read here by Leandro Santanna, was originally published in the Gazeta da Tarde on April 20, 1911, and republished four years later, in the first edition of Triste fim de Policarpo Quaresma [The Sad End of Policarpo Quaresma] (1915, pp. 287-97). It tells the story of Castelo, a character who rises from anonymity to national glory by applying for a position as a Javanese language teacher. The bohemian conversation between Castelo and Castro, the narrator and his interlocutor, begins in a café in Rio de Janeiro and leads us to the National Library, two of Lima Barreto’s favorite haunts. Through sarcasm, the tale reveals the critical eye of our writer in relation to false erudition and the fascination of “doutores” with the importation of foreign ideas.

“Whilst working in the State’s employ there are o surprises, and they don’t even ask you to make any extra effort to be alive the following day. Everything runs calmly and smoothly, without any collisions or upsets, writing the same papers and advice notes, the samedecrees and edicts, in the same way, throughout the entire year, except on Holy Days, Bank Holidays and free optional days, one of the best inventions of our Republic.”

The short story "Três Gênios de Secretaria" ("Three Geniuses of Secretary") is one of Lima Barreto's most satirical. In it, the writer criticizes bureaucratic labor through three caricatures: the honest, the dishonest, and the mediocre bureaucrat. Originally published in Brás Cubas, Rio de Janeiro, April 10, 1919, the piece also appears in the collection Contos completos de Lima Barreto, São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 2010.

“During the centuries of slavery, their ancestors who lived in cities would only have been able to relive the ceremonies of their hutments or villages during Carnival. The tradition was passed down to their children, then their grandchildren, who continued to observe an inevitably warped version of it.”

The short story "Cló" deals with the violence of desire and its interdictions within a family marked by the post-abolition period. Set amidst the mixture of gestures and races of Rio de Janeiro's Carnival, the story focuses on the young Cló, daughter of Maximiliano and Isabel, and her flirtations with the married Dr. André. Ambiguity and the violence of interracial relationships—as well as its denunciation—are integral to the story, which was originally published in the first edition of Histórias e sonhos (1920) and later in the collection Três contos—Lima Barreto (1955), with etchings by Claudio Corrêa e Castro.

“When I leave home and go to the corner of the Estrada Real de Santa Cruz, to wait for the streetcar, I get a good look at the misery that runs through this Rio de Janeiro.”

The crônica O "muambeiro” (“The Smuggler”), by Lima Barreto, is read here by one of contemporary Brazilian literature’s most prominent figures, Conceição Evaristo. The text was republished in Toda crônica: Lima Barreto, organized by Beatriz Resende and Rachel Valença (Editora Agir, 2004). With Lima Barreto’s characteristic sharp eye, the story brings us closer to the author’s wanderings through the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro and portrays the misfortunes of the workers who circulated in the area. By recounting stories heard while waiting for the streetcar, Lima Barreto exposes the tensions between daily life in Rio and the country’s economic situation, at the same time offering ways to navigate its contradictions.

“She saw her father’s stern look; her mother’s recriminations. She, nevertheless, had to get married. She couldn’t spend her entire life like that, a dog without an owner…Her parents were going to die one day, and she couldn’t be left in the world helpless…A doubt came over her: he was white; she, mulatto…”

The short story “Clara dos Anjos,” by Lima Barreto—read here by Djamila Ribeiro—was published in the first edition of Histórias e sonhos (Stories and Dreams) (1920, pp. 142-153). A fragment of the original manuscript can be found in the National Library of Brazil (Mss. I-06,34,0906). The story was one of the most revisited by the writer. Barreto makes an initial reference to the title character in his Diário íntimo (Intimate Diary), from the 1910s. The text was transformed into a novel in 1922 but published only later, posthumously, in 1948. Considered Barreto’s most suburban and female-centered novel, Clara dos Anjos portrays the author’s alter-ego—a young black woman, a dreamer from Rio de Janeiro—who ends up pregnant and abandoned.